Isaiah 64:1-2 “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes fire to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you!”
There were two kinds of enemies Isaiah had in mind, but only one of them really looked the part. First, there were those on the outside. By Isaiah’s time, the nation of Judah had become the skinny, nerdy kid on the block in the Middle East. They kept getting run over by big bullies on every side. Most recently the Assyrians had bloodied their nose and stolen their lunch money. The Babylonians were waiting in the wings for their turn to shake them down.
The bigger problem was the enemy on the inside. God’s own people had lost their sense of need for God. It almost seemed to the prophet as if the Lord wanted it this way: “Why, O Lord, do you make us wander from your ways and harden our hearts so we do not revere you?” He asks near the end of the previous chapter. “Why do you make us put out the unwelcome mat?” Isaiah could look around at many of his fellow Israelites, who had stopped going to the temple, who had adopted sinful and selfish lifestyles, and wonder, “With friends like that, who needs enemies?”
He also knew where to turn. “Rend the heavens and come down.” He doesn’t ask the Lord to make a sneak attack. He isn’t looking for God to do his thing in the background. He wants him to tear through the wall that separates his world from ours. He wants more than a demonstration of God’s power. He wants a supernatural demonstration of God’s power, the kind that will silence the Bible deniers and the Bible skeptics.
You see, the utter materialist, who believes the only things that are real are the things you can touch and see, isn’t a recent development. “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God,’” David writes in the psalms. They had them thousands of years ago, too.
Nor are we immune to their way of thinking. When God delays, when he doesn’t come to fix things, we wonder. When the people with all the power, all the money, and all the success seem to be the people with no religion, we entertain secret thoughts, “Maybe we’ve got it wrong, and they’ve got it right. Maybe I’m just wasting my time with Christianity and religion. If you can’t beat them, join them!”
But if God would make a dramatic entrance, if he would come crashing through the barrier that keeps us from seeing the spiritual world and spiritual forces all around us, that would silence the mockers and the skeptics and the persecutors, and it would help to settle our own doubts, too.
That would change things, and do it quickly. “As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you.” You see what Isaiah is asking for? He wants God to set off earthquakes with his entrance, and he wants the enemies of God’s people to quake as well. He wants the Lord to make his name known to his enemies, names like The Almighty, the Holy One of Israel, the Judge of heaven and earth. In Isaiah’s day the enemies would have been nations such as Assyria, Egypt, Babylon, Edom and Moab. In our day the enemy might be professors on hundreds of college campuses who make no secret of their agenda to destroy the faith of incoming students, or the purveyors of filth, obscenity, and immorality in what we loosely refer to as the entertainment industry. “Make them shake, Lord,” Isaiah prays. “Come, and make your name known to your enemies.”
Is that a godly prayer? Is it wrong to want this, much less ask for it? If all we care about is settling a score; if all that concerns us is that they made us suffer, so they should suffer, too, then we don’t have a prayer here. We have a temper tantrum. It is something short of a godly desire. It is an attitude for which we need to repent.
But we can’t want the enemies of God to win! The Lord is a just God, which means that he is against sin in all its forms. If he weren’t, if he tolerated sin and just let it go, he would not be good. He would be a god whom we could neither trust nor respect.
It is only right that the Lord come and put a stop to those who murder the bodies of his people, and even more so those whose messages murder their souls. It is not mere selfishness and vengefulness that leads God’s people to want the Lord to come down and execute justice, to make his name known to his enemies. It is a desire to defend and protect God’s faithful children, so we join with Isaiah in making this our urgent prayer: “Come!”